"District 9": DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review (2009)

12/24/2009 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Review

“District 9”

Directed by Neill Blomkamp, written by Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, 111 minutes, rated R.

By Christopher Smith

Neill Blomkamp’s science-fiction movie, “District 9,” now out on DVD and Blu-ray disc, has an intriguing twist. It’s about how nearly 2 million misplaced aliens from outer space find themselves stuck on planet Earth. Given the state of the world, you can imagine how unpleasant that must be, but here’s the thing--instead of us worrying about what they might do to us, this film is more concerned about what we’re doing to them.

Sound ingenious? It is.

In fact, the movie is laced with so many pockets of fresh thinking, it’s easy to overlook its shortcomings, most of which come at the start and are dispensed with as soon as the movie reveals its themes, which are reflected back on audiences in ways that cut so uncomfortably close, the film puts you at unease.

Here is a sci-fi movie whose core question comes down to this--who is the monster in this monster movie? Them or us?

Given the rough way the aliens are treated in District 9, a fenced shanty town coming apart at the seams in Johannesburg, South Africa (the apartheid references abound), there is no question that it’s us.

Our treatment of the aliens is barbaric. After all, for nearly 20 years, these “prawns,” as they’re called, have been housed in a chaotic, crime-ridden dump while their massive mothership hovers lifelessly above the landscape. Meanwhile, the residents and the government of Johannesburg try to deal with them, often abusively, and tensions are only rising. To negate them, a movement is underfoot to transplant the aliens well outside the city, where they presumably will bother no one.

Heading that charge is Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley), a bumbling caricature at first (and an irritating one at that) who works for Multi-National United, though he comes off as such an idiot, you’d wonder how he got the job at all if it wasn’t revealed that he’s married to the daughter (Vanessa Haywood) of one of the company’s leaders.

The job facing Wikus is massive and dangerous. Backed by armed forces, he and his team must go door to door in an effort to get the aliens to sign eviction notices. Tensions rise even higher. Those who refuse to move are obliterated. Those who agree usually only do so because there’s a gun in their face. Chaos is about to burst free when Wikus accidentally sprays himself with an alien-created virus that has the unfortunate side effect of turning him into one of them.

And here is where the movie starts to hum.

Now that he’s infected and physically undergoing a bug-like metamorphosis (cue the Kafka influences), Wikus shakes off the trappings of caricature and becomes a more believable character. He now is someone you pull for, particularly because he’s a good man who wants to do right by the aliens. Two in particular--a father and son--are critical to the movie in ways that won’t be revealed here.

What can be said is that this low-budget film with its unknown cast is recommended because it ultimately is thought-provoking and smart. This isn’t a sci-fi thriller so much as it is a sci-fi drama. It poses several serious questions about the state of humanity, many of which go unanswered. It sees outside of the genre and works hard to create something new. It considers the situation it poses seriously, understands the cold limitations and brutality of man, and brings together a gathering storm of political unrest, bloodshed and personal change that linger when the film is over.

Grade: B

View the trailer for "District 9" below. Thoughts?

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  1. Sean Weatherby said...

    District 9 was genuinely original and all around high quality as far as cinematography goes; that new no name lead actor did a great job